Olduvai Gorge is sometimes called the Olduvai Gorge found in Tanzania. The Gorges is one of the world's famous paleoanthropological sites and it has proven invaluable in furthering understanding of early human evolution.
Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the area dating back millions of years, leading them to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.
Olduvai is a Masai word for a wild sisal plant common in that area. The gorge is situated in the Great East African Rift Valley, between the famous Ngorongoro conservation area and the Serengeti National Park. Olduvai Gorge was formed in the recent geological period of 30,000 years ago, the result of aggressive geological activity and streams.
The steep ravine is about 30 miles (48.2 km) long and 295 feet (89.9 meters) deep, not quite large enough to be classified as a canyon. A river cuts through several layers to form four individual beds, with the oldest estimated at about 2 million years old.
The gorge is found in stunning landscape of northern Tanzania, created as a result of of both abrupt high-energy processes like volcanism and plate tectonics well as the slower low-energy processes such as erosion and weathering operating together over millions of years. During this time, climate has varied from arid to semi-arid and the vegetation and animal populations both fluctuated with the availability of water. Feedback between climate and topography is particularly important in regions of high relief like the East African Rift System (EARS). The modern topography in northern Tanzania is the summation of the interaction of geologic, biologic, and hydrologic processes. Over time these processes have sculpted the Earth surface by erosion of high areas and the transport and deposition of this material into low areas.
Olduvai Gorge was created by the erosion of an incised valley draining water from the Ndutu Lake into the OlBalBal depression located at the foot of Ngorongoro. It is part of the Serengeti migratory ecosystem. Erosion has carved its way through different geological strata spanning two million years; from the emergence of the genus Homo to the appearance of our species Homo sapiens. The gorge contains one of the richest and best preserved archaeological and paleontological records for the study of human evolution.
Olduvai was the first place where traces of an early stone tool culture were discovered, and gave the name to the Oldowan, nowadays considered as the earliest human technology. Olduvai is also one of the first sites in Africa where the earliest Acheulean was first discovered, and where the traditional view of the Oldowan-Acheulean transition was established.
The disappearance of the earliest human culture, the Oldowan, and its substitution by a new technology, the Acheulean, is one of the main topics in modern Paleoanthropology. The Olduvai Geochronology and Archaeology Project (OGAP) bring together an international team of archaeologists and geologists, whose main goal is to study the mechanisms that led to the origins of the Acheulean in Olduvai Gorge.